Breast cancer is an excessive growth of cells of the breast. It is highly prevalent in women but can affect men also. Cancer cells have a tendency to break away from a primary tumour and spread to other parts of the body such as lymph nodes around the breast, and liver, lung, and bones, causing Metastatic cancer or Stage IV cancer.
Breast cancer can be of different types such as ductal, lobular, inflammatory, medullary, etc. Metastases can occur with all types of breast cancer that is invasive. However, the risk of metastases varies with the type of cancer. Dr. Goel says, more aggressive breast cancers have a higher risk of metastases while less aggressive breast cancers have a much lower risk of metastases.
How Does Cancer Spread or Metastasize?
The spread of cancer cells usually take place through any of the following steps:
- Cancer cells separate from their surrounding cells and tissue and move into the healthy tissues around. This process is called invasion and cancers that are invasive can lead to metastases. Non-invasive cancers do not lead to metastases.
- During the invasion, cancer cells reach lymph vessels or small blood vessels and enter into these vessels.
- After entering into the lymph or blood vessels, cells move with the flow of lymph or blood. At some distant site, the cells stick to the wall of the vessels and then come out in the lymph nodes or tissues.
- At these remote sites, cells survive, grow and lead to the formation of new tumours or metastatic cancer deposits.
Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer
Dr. Arun Goel, Senior Consultant, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali, says, that the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer depend upon the organs affected by metastatic tumour and how far has it extended.
Symptoms when cancer has spread to the bone
- Pain: severe, persistent and progressive
- Bones become weak and can be easily fractured with very minor injury
- If backbone is involved, paralysis can occur
Symptoms when cancer has spread to the liver
- Pain in upper part of the abdomen, on the right side
- Decreased appetite, weakness, weight loss
- Swelling or fullness in the right side of the abdomen in upper part
Symptoms when cancer has spread to the lungs
- Chest pain
- Persistent nagging cough
- Breathing difficulty or shortness of breath
Symptoms when cancer has spread to the brain
- Persistent headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weakness of limbs
Some cases of metastatic breast cancer are present when the breast cancer is first diagnosed. However, in most cases, metastatic breast cancer usually represents a cancer recurrence. This recurrence occurs after months or years of initial cancer treatment.
While metastatic breast cancer is stage IV cancer, there are many options for treatment and patients can live good quality life for many years. Further, newer options are becoming available on a regular interval. Taking treatment for metastatic breast cancer from highly trained and skilled cancer specialists can give you good quality of life and long survival.
We at Max Healthcare are proud to be the best cancer hospital in India with a highly experienced panel of doctors from Radiation Oncology, Medical Oncology and Surgical Oncology. Our oncologists have years of experience in treating the most complicated cancer cases while providing integrated and holistic care.